Presidential candidates talking about the national economy should be concerned with the spending power of the average Floridian. What Florida voters signal via the ballot box likely will be influenced by their weakening spending power and reactions to policies that offer viable solutions.
How are Floridians doing? Let’s turn to the numbers. Trends across four indicators provide a starting point for conversations about the health of Florida’s economy:
- Median Household Income
- Personal Income per Capita
- Average Wage
- Disposable Personal Income per Capita
Looking at four years of the most recent available data, we see a drop in median household income from $49,557 in 2010 to $47,886 in 2013. (Note: Data for 2014 will not be released until December 2015.) Median income means half the population makes more and half makes less. While the median is different than saying “average,” we still get some sense of income trends.
Speaking directly to the economic health of the average Floridian, personal income per capita demonstrates the struggle over the last four years to keep pace with inflation. The trend line from 2011 to 2014 reveals an increase in personal income per capita from $40,215 to $42,645 that when adjusted for inflation positions the average Floridian $321 on the upside. This increase ranks Florida 28th nationally.
A deeper dive into average wages demonstrates how difficult the climb up the income ladder can be. Comparing average wages for roughly 715 occupations between 2010 and 2014, nearly 81 percent of those jobs (or more than 5.6 million) offer average wages that have not kept pace with inflation. This analysis required compiling data sets provided courtesy of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Finally, we turn to a common indicator of buying power in the Sunshine State: disposable personal income per capita. The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis reported the average Floridian’s disposable income was $36,737 in 2011 and $38,250 in 2014. However, upon closer scrutiny, we find the 2014 figure to be $416 below what it would have been had it kept pace with inflation.
These data points and more should inform national and state economic policy development. I’ll admit that few Floridians, if any, will be thinking in terms of shifts in inflation-adjusted disposable income per capita. That doesn’t mean they are oblivious to what’s happening to them. Unlike the proverbial frog sitting in a pot of water gradually heated to the point of its unwitting demise, Floridians will get uncomfortable enough to jump. Where they land with their votes is almost certain to determine who next occupies the White House.
Dr. Dale Brill is founder and obsessive thinker for Thinkspot Inc., a Florida-based consulting firm. He has previously served as chief marketing officer for VISIT FLORIDA under Gov. Jeb Bush, director of the Office of Tourism, Trade & Economic Development within the Gov. Charlie Crist administration and president of the Florida Chamber Foundation. You can reach Dale by e-mail at email@example.com.